Biofuels producers: No really, this is the year biofuels are going to take off, for serious

posted at 6:01 pm on April 16, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

I mentioned the other day that, to the detriment of just about everyone involved, the Environmental Protection Agency is still considering whether or not they really will follow through with their proposal to reduce the gasoline-ethanol blending volumes required by the Renewable Fuel Standard, first enacted by 2007, to avoid running the oil industry up against the “blend wall” (the ten percent ethanol threshold beyond which a lot of cars and trucks on the road won’t be able to cope with the biofueled gas). Big Ethanol, of course, has been complaining that this is just a load of waffle invented by Big Oil to artificially stymie competition — but people in glass houses really shouldn’t be in the business of throwing stones, you know? Via the NYT:

“It’s very frustrating,” said Christopher Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa. “The whole purpose of the Renewable Fuel Standard was to encourage investment to create brand-new technologies that would help the United States become more energy-independent and use cleaner and more efficient fuels. We feel like we are just on the verge of doing that and now the E.P.A. is talking about changing the rules.” …

The energy act’s goal of reaching 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2022 is now considered virtually unreachable, even by biofuel enthusiasts. “It would take an enormous effort of deploying capital and labor and engineering,” said Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. …

But biofuel producers and lobbyists say the country needs more of their product. “Cellulosic biofuel has the promise to deliver tens of billions of gallons of ethanol to the United States, but there needs to be a market for that,” Brian Foody, president and chief executive of the Canadian biofuel company Iogen, told reporters in a recent conference call by industry executives discussing the impact of the E.P.A. proposal. “We believe it’s critical for E.P.A. to create a segment or space in the market for E-85 to grow and to set numbers that will provide incentives.”

“There needs to be a market for that.” Yes, and since there obviously isn’t one, you need the federal government to artificially keep the fake one that’s already in place going.

But, this time, these biofuels producers are promising, they’re seriously super-duper close to developing the next best thing since sliced bread. Take this brand-new cellulosic ethanol plant they’re currently heralding as the wondrous future of biofuels:

But Abengoa, which received a $134 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department, will be first out of the gate, its plant beginning full operations by early May. The company plans to produce 25 million gallons of biofuel a year at the plant here and has already started a 21-megawatt electricity plant at the site powered by biomass.

Abengoa has developed a proprietary enzyme to mix with corn stalks and wheat straw to produce sugars that will then be fermented and distilled to produce cellulosic ethanol. That more efficient process can increase yields and decrease costs. Over the last four years, Abengoa has improved yields from 55 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass to 80 gallons per ton.

You know what? Maybe Abengoa really will be all that and a bag of chips. …Or, maybe not, and it still won’t do nearly enough to make its product as attractive on its own competitive merits as other fuel sources. The point is, haven’t we “invested” quite enough taxpayer money and economic opportunity costs supporting costly and failed endeavors trying to find out?


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Don’t want no corn squeezins in my truck…

OmahaConservative on April 16, 2014 at 6:07 PM

I thought liberals were burning aborted babies for fuel. What happened to that?

faraway on April 16, 2014 at 6:08 PM

I have been farting into my gas tank for a long time but it has never worked, so I think BIOfuels are dead.

Sven on April 16, 2014 at 6:15 PM

Over the last four years, Abengoa has improved yields from 55 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass to 80 gallons per ton.

And what is the actual energy content of that ethanol?
Compared to preoleum based gasoline, it’s still more expensive and provides less power output – therefore less efficientand less economical.

dentarthurdent on April 16, 2014 at 6:16 PM

I have been farting into my gas tank for a long time but it has never worked, so I think BIOfuels are dead.

Sven on April 16, 2014 at 6:15 PM

You need to use one of those special hoses that seals the connection…..
;)

dentarthurdent on April 16, 2014 at 6:18 PM

The point is, haven’t we “invested” quite enough taxpayer money and economic opportunity costs supporting costly and failed endeavors trying to find out?

<

Yes indeed: It took mother nature hundreds of millions of years to produce our oil and gas. The idea that we can grow it is poppycock. Besides how much energy does it take to produce a gallon of biofuel?

jmtham156 on April 16, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Efficient, economical, practical, are words that don’t exist in the liberal dictionary.

crankyoldlady on April 16, 2014 at 6:33 PM

Super cereal.

KMC1 on April 16, 2014 at 6:47 PM

The company plans to produce 25 million gallons of biofuel a year at the plant here and has already started a 21-megawatt electricity plant at the site powered by biomass.

Yesterdays news. The IPCC and others have published studies saying Biomass Power Plants are actually more harmful to the environment than Natural Gas burning power plants. And the US has a gazillion years worth of NG still in the ground. Sorry.

Johnnyreb on April 16, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Fo realz you guys. We only need one more year of massive subsidies. We swears it.

Texas Zombie on April 16, 2014 at 7:04 PM

I’m super cereal, excelsior !!

heh grains…super cereal…south park rocks :)

dmacleo on April 16, 2014 at 7:21 PM

Yes, lets leave an efficient fuel in the ground and use our food as a replacement.

illiberal illogic.

rbj on April 16, 2014 at 7:59 PM

rbj on April 16, 2014 at 7:59 PM

Engines destroyed, taking millions of privately-owned vehicles off the roads.

Millions starve in the Third World, reducing the number of human “parasites” on Holy Mother Gaia.

Meanwhile, the progressives eat arugla and cruise by in their electric-powered, Holy Sun-recharged Tesla limos.

UTOPIA!

For the “enlightened elite’”, it’s a win-win.

Never underestimate the insanity of progressives’ delusional worldview, or their hatred for the rest of humanity.

In their minds, both trump reality every time.

clear ether

eon

eon on April 16, 2014 at 8:35 PM

Yep, and on a tank of E-85, for about double the cost, I can go 3/4 of the distance that I can on a tank of regular 10% gas. I could probably go further on a tank of unblended gas.

lfwest on April 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM

If ethanol were a viable additive, we wouldn’t place a tariff on the cheaper, more environment-friendly sugar cane ethanol like we do.

The fact is ethanol is a NET harm to the environment generally AND total carbon emissions in particular, reduces the life of internal combustion engines and engine parts, raises the costs of food staples and virtually all meat and poultry, and increases the cost of fuel. Overall, it does great harm to our economy for no benefit to anyone who isn’t putting a federal subsidy in their pocket.

As for the EPA, since we can’t just line them all up and shoot them, I recommend they all be fired, including the guy who waxes the hall floor and the undocumented lady who empties the trash.

Adjoran on April 16, 2014 at 9:08 PM

I would guess that Big Oil is behind most of the information against ethanol. Which is funny since they got paid about 50 cents a gallon to blend it into gasoline. The best is yet to come, because the auto companies need higher octane fuel to meet the coming 54.5 mpg standards. This will require E30 fuel for the Tier III engines.

Highplains on April 16, 2014 at 11:10 PM

Millions starve in the Third World, reducing the number of human “parasites” on Holy Mother Gaia.

When it comes to glucose ethanol, very little of the corn is actually used. They are only taking out the sugar and starches. The leftovers are sold to farmers who use it for feed which produces food. In the cellulose plants they do not use the food part of the plant. So millions are not “starving” in the Third World due to ethanol. BTW, there is another plant due to open in the next month or two in Emmetsburg, IA. It is owned by Poet. I do not know if they used government guaranteed loans or other subsidies to build it. I am no fan of subsidies and believe ethanol should be able to stand on its own or go away. But make sure the “facts” you use are true.

duggersd on April 17, 2014 at 7:00 AM

But Abengoa, which received a $134 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department, will be first out of the gate, its plant beginning full operations by early May. The company plans to produce 25 million gallons of biofuel a year at the plant here and has already started a 21-megawatt electricity plant at the site powered by biomass.

Twenty-five million gallons is about 595,000 barrels a year, or about 1,630 barrels a day.

The Keystone XL pipeline, if built, would deliver about 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil, which could probably produce about 300,000 barrels a day of gasoline in American refineries, with NO government subsidies–only permission.

So Abengoa wants a $134 million subsidy to produce enough ethanol to raise the ethanol content of Keystone XL pipeline gasoline by 0.54%. Where do we get the ethanol to keep the ethanol content of the entire American gasoline supply at 10% ethanol?

Put another way, if Abengoa produced 25 million gallons of ethanol a year for 5 years (125 million gallons), the government subsidies represent $1.07 per gallon of ethanol, whose fuel value is about half that of gasoline, whose Federal tax is $0.18 per gallon.

Besides, any corn NOT turned into ethanol could be exported as food or fed to livestock.

Your tax dollars at work–taxing cheap fuel to make expensive fuel, and starving hungry children overseas, and making beef more expensive.

Steve Z on April 17, 2014 at 3:11 PM

I would guess that Big Oil is behind most of the information against ethanol. Which is funny since they got paid about 50 cents a gallon to blend it into gasoline. The best is yet to come, because the auto companies need higher octane fuel to meet the coming 54.5 mpg standards. This will require E30 fuel for the Tier III engines.

Highplains on April 16, 2014 at 11:10 PM

On a volume basis, the heating value of ethanol is only about 69% of that of gasoline. For an engine with a given efficiency, the current blend of 10% ethanol would have a miles-per-gallon about 3% LESS than that of ethanol-free gasoline, and a blend of 30% ethanol in 70% gasoline would have an mpg about 6% LESS than the current blend.

Octane number is NOT a measure of fuel economy, but of the tendency of a fuel to run smoothly in an engine without pre-ignition, or “knocking”. It is measured by comparing a fuel to a mixture of n-heptane (octane number = zero) and 2,2,4-trimethylpentane (“iso-octane, octane number = 100) in a test engine. Heptane and iso-octane have nearly equal heating values, within 0.8% of each other.

Ethanol will not cause an engine to “knock”, but it produces about 31% less power per gallon than gasoline, so that blending it into gasoline REDUCES the fuel economy of a given engine.

Steve Z on April 17, 2014 at 3:53 PM

You are correct about the BTU content of ethanol and E0 gasoline. However E10 has better than 98% of the energy content of E0. What ethanol has done for oil companies is to allow them to refine more gasoline from a barrel of oil, and use the ethanol to raise the octane back to what gasoline was before the addition.

If you consider that diesel fuel has about 14% more BTU’s than E0 gasoline, but the higher compression ratio gives about 30% better mileage, you will start to see why the automakers want to use E30 fuels for their Tier III engines. It will allow them to raise compression ratios, run turbo’s or superchargers and decrease internal engine drag with smaller more powerful/cc engines. Of course the oil companies are dead set against this, but it becomes very expensive to make higher octane gasoline without the ethanol.

One of the worst decisions made by automakers was the so called flex fuel vehicles. Low compression for E0 87 octane fuels, they just don’t get the best return on E85 fuel Were they designed to only run E85, they would have done much better on fuel economy than present flex engines by 15 or 20%.

Highplains on April 23, 2014 at 2:55 AM